Owning a small business comes with a lot of headaches and the book industry is notoriously complicated — nobody but the big executives and top tier of celebrity authors make much so it is a given that those of us who try to make a living selling books do so because we love books and want to encourage the reading life. For people of faith working in the subcategories of theological books and other resources to help followers of Christ (especially if we view that with a wide-as-life angle of vision) well, it’s down-right disheartening most days.

We are so glad for our customers who are kind enough to send us orders from far away and who regularly ask for book advice. We thank God for you who read BookNotes and buy your books from us. But, still, often the vocation of being in the hot-seat here can be stressful, to say the least.

Which is why some days I’m struck with a profound realization of how lucky we are to be around book people, church folks, seekers and readers. And for good books that keep appearing and take our breaths away even in this busy time of year.

For this BookNotes I’m going to share a handful of mostly new books that just make me glad. (ALthough that old picture the day we got a bunch of Bob Goff’s Dream Big still makes me smile. It was a hard day, as I recall, and then that happened.)

These are mostly not that heavy, not all that game-changing, just titles that are reminding me this week to smile awhile. Maybe you, too, are happy for entertaining books that bring some joy, some goodness, a little bit of light.

I’m very sincere in this moody introduction, since it is often hard in this business of business, trying to serve customers well, and the scrooge in me is never too far below the surface. And yet I am delighted —yes! — when I see books that I know will make people happy.

But, I have this up my sleeve as well: maybe you need a gift for somebody that has some sense of meaning or joy to it but isn’t overly religious (or not at all.) Not all of our customers are Christians, and not all of our customers want Christian books. Or maybe they want such theological works for themselves, but they want to give a gift to a friend or loved one who is not particularly churched. Maybe I’m saying the obvious, but these might work, ya know? Order today so we can ship them pronto.

But first, the one that came today.

BRAND NEW: a new prayer book by Padraig O Tuama and TEN MORE RECENT BOOKS THAT MAKE ME SMILE — 20% OFF.

Being Here: Prayers for Curiosity, Justice, and Love Padraig O Tauma (Eerdmans) $22.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39

I love it that this arrived early! Hooray! I quoted this in a talk I did not long ago (I had an advanced copy) and have been pondering the long introductory essay for a month. As only an Irish peace-making poet can, he tells some stories (including about being laid up sick with a very big, favorite novel) and moves to the big question of this new book — what is prayer? It is, finally, “a way of seeing here, a way of being here.” This book is the perfect, delightful, lovely, challenging, and raw (and at time aesthetically eccentric) combo of poetry and prayer.

Being Here offers thirty-one collects crafted to invite readers into a deeper engagement into their world. They are, like a devotional, presented alongside scripture (and with illuminating literary texts.) Collects are, as you most likely know, a certain sort of prayer (that have a certain literary structure, even.) These prayer-poems offered as collects “recalibrates the language of literacy in a way that both contains and reenergizes ancient spiritual practices.” The essays included make it a really great read and while there is an overtone of lament, crying out for the abused, it makes me smile.

O Tauma is best known for hosting the Poetry Unbound podcast from On Being. His recent books include Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World (highly recommended) and Feed the Beast, a recent chapbook which we also carry.

Paidraig’s prayers balance doubt and devotion in a way that feels at once impossible and also desperately needed. I am in love with his unsentimental orientation to the holy. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saint

Being Here: Prayers for Curiosity… is a great new book and I’m rightfully enthused but you want to know something that really makes me smile. The very artful cover on it is a painting by Lanecia Rouse Tinsley of Houston and — get this — she also created an original painting for the forthcoming cover of a long-awaited book coming out next month by our friend Cole Arthur Riley, Black Liturgies. That little connection makes me grin. We’ve been taking pre-orders for Cole book, of course (at 20% off) and I’ll write about it soon. Be very glad.


The Book of (More) Delights Ross Gay (Algonquin Books) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

Do you know Ross Gay, the best-selling author of The Book of Delights and the lovely Inciting Joy? He is a poet and known for his love of gardening; he teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington. This is a sequel to the phenomenal Book of Delights and it follows the same pattern. It is a set of short essays, one a day, naming something he took delight in. Some are fairly profound and may take your breath away and some seem, at first blush, a bit silly. He makes a gentle case for all, including good stuff from the sublime and the mundane.

He’s got an admirable outlook and these “small daily wonders” (written over the course of a year) explores allusively what brings us delight. It is, many say, a volume “to savor and share.” He’s an amazing person, a good wordsmith, but it will help you discover delight as well. Cue Bruce Cockburn’s “Don’t Forget About Delight” and start this one, soon. Enjoy.

Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier Arthur C. Brooks, with Oprah Winfrey (Portfolio) $30.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

Arthur Brooks, not to be confused with David Brooks (who has a truly great new book out, Who To Know a Person, which I have written about already) is a conservative social science guy, who used to do more with policy and civic life and shifted to being known as a writer of sophisticated advice columns that matter for relationships, aging, and, in this case, being “happier.” Many of these pieces, in one way or another, appeared in his revered The Atlantic columns.

And Oprah saw them. She says in the preface that if she were still doing her TV show, she’d be having Arthur on the show, a lot. She’s a big fan.

It’s a little curious — she a liberal black woman, he a conservative white man — but they forged this friendship exploring science and neuroscience and habits and virtues. As she says forcefully, “I see myself in so much of this book. My hope is that you will see yourself, too. Not just the person you’ve been, but the truly happier person you can become.”

She explains that she is having fun — a word she never used previously about her own life. “May this book serve as a reminder,” she intones almost like a benediction, “ to embrace and share your happiness.”

The book is jam-packed with stories and data, wisdom and all manner of truth about things that matter. Oprah has an introductory chapter in front of a few of the major sections and another at the end. Most of the pieces are Arthur’s. Some are visionary, some are practical. It makes me glad to see such thoughtful public figures speaking graciously about ordinary folks and their ordinary lives. There’s even a chapter about finding your “amazing grace.” Not bad.

Round Here and Over Yonder: A Front-Porch Travel Guide by Two Progressive Hillbillies (Yes, That’s a Thing) Trae Crowder and Corey Ryan Forrester (Harper Horizon) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

This travelogue book by two stand-up comedians is both dumb and smart, low-brow and sophisticated (well, a little, anyway.) There’s a lot of drinkin’ and some cussin’. These guys are live comics from the South and this is their travel guide to “Round Here” (that’s their own homeland, the American Southland), “Over Yonder” (which is the “Rest of America”), and “Yonder, Yonder” (which covers places they went on their trip to England and Scotland.) The thing about many funny guys? They just can’t help themselves. Even the footnotes are funny.

One of things they say often (especially in the great introduction) is that it’s okay to make fun of stuff, and that, frankly, mocking and joking around, when done well, shows more of what we have in common than what we don’t. So they’ve got a pretty grand ethical project here, and, off-color and rude as they are (you’ve seen stand up these days, I bet) it seems to have a decent moral core. Some of the jokes are okay and a few made me holler out loud. The whole thing was a fun trip.

As they put it, “When it comes down to it, we’re just two Southern boys who, by virtue of luck and little hard work, have been lucky enough to see the world beyond Mamma’s front porch.”

“When it comes down to it, we’re just two Southern boys who, by virtue of luck and little hard work, have been lucky enough to see the world beyond Mamma’s front porch.”

This is an irreverent summary of cities they know, major cities and the smallest of towns. “We even hop the Atlantic to review some of them fancy kings-and-castles places that PBS Viewers Like You can’t stop yapping about.”  That’s funny, no?

Chickamauga and Cheyenne, Napa and New Orleans, Seattle and Scotland. As they put it, again, “it turns out that no matter where we go, there’s something to roast, something to toast, and something to learn about what ties us together as humans.”

How to Be Married (to Melissa): A Hilarious Guide to a Happier, One-of-a-Kind Marriage Dustin Nickerson (Thomas Nelson) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

This was the funniest book I read all year, the one that made me laugh the most. I wanted to read it and read it again to Beth, and, well, you had to be there. It is a hoot. And it lays down some serious advice, mostly by way of his telling of his own foibles and failures (and some darn funny sidebars by wife Melissa, who tells her side of things making clear what really happened.) As they both agree, “marriage isn’t always funny. But that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about it.”

Nickerson, who has ordered books from us and has become a bit of an online friend, is a popular stand up comedian (and podcaster, I’m told.) I bet he knows Crowder and Forrester, and many stand-ups have somewhat similar stories of being on the road, the grueling schedules, and crowds, and late night temptations. Nickerson tells only a bit of this, but he makes it a point to explain how this on-the-road lifestyle effects his family. He is aware of it and he compensates the best he can. It’s a bit extreme but I suspect many of us can relate. I sure do. He’s a good guy.

The first major chapter (after he disses buying marriage books — just skip that paragraph) is about fighting well. And man, do they. It is a bit cringy at times, hearing how candid he is about these legendary battles that have become part of their story. But he explains it all with lots of drama and starts the pitch about laughing about stuff, even in hard times. He observes that, with marriage (unlike Southwest Airlines) your baggage does not fly free. He explains what sex has to do with Legoland; yup. (There’s a lot about sex in this book — not too much, but, well, you’ll see.) He tells why you should never put Scattergories on your wedding registry. As you might guess, they laugh until they don’t and even their dumb party games can turn professional-level hurtful.  Dustin does not like to lose.

It’s a wild ride and I’m glad they are still together. Their faith matters to them although they are pretty loose about it. Spoiler alert — part way through they admit to a fairly fundamentalist past. He even worked in a well-known toxic church for a while, which blew me away.

Anyway, this is just out in paperback, and that makes me smile, too. I enjoyed this book a lot and I am glad for them — they’ve got a lot to teach, even if they diss marriage advice books. From eating healthy to parenting to finances to church attendance, they get into it all. No formulas and no charts and no promises, even. Every relationship is one-of-a-kind, so good luck with your actual married human. You’ll need it. Especially if you don’t learn to laugh. This story of “how to be married” (to Melissa, at least) can help.

And get this: there is a foreword by the up and coming, very hip Taylor Tomlinson, who has toured with Dustin and thinks the world of him. She’s a real rising star and affirms his brand of raw, clean humor, explaining some serious respect for Dustin, Melissa, and their kids.

The Just Kitchen: Invitations to Sustainability, Cooking, Connection, and Celebration Derrick Weston & Anna Woofenden (Broadleaf Books) $29.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99

This came to us a bit early in October and we’ve been happy to see our stack here ever since We took some pre-orders and it is remarkable how many people have heard of this. There’s a big buzz and it is well-deserved. It makes us glad — it’s a book about celebration, after all, as it says on the cover, so hooray.

Here’s an updated version of what I wrote when we first announced this. I want to celebrate it again:

Derrick is an old Pittsburgh Presbyterian, a righteous urban ministry guy, and now a food and faith podcaster and gardening activist in Baltimore. His official bio says that he manages the Rockrose City Farm on Baltimore’s east side, growing food for ministries that distribute to those who are food insecure. A documentary filmmaker, producer, and former Presbyterian minister, Derrick is a firm believer in using one’s voice and the media to inspire and enact social change. Indeed!

You may know of Anna, who wrote a book we adored and that I wrote about briefly a time or two here at BookNotes, This Is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls. That great memoir was about her essentially creating a fresh expression of the inclusive church by inviting folks to urban gardening. Her bio notes that she remains the pastor of both The Garden Church and Feed and Be Fed Farm in San Pedro, California. She is said to be “passionate about spirituality, justice, food, the earth, beauty, compassion, and community.” She is now based in Northampton, Massachusetts. We are fans and you should be, too.

This recent book is a delight. Slightly oversized like a good cookbook (it does have recipes!) it is, as one Colorado reviewer put it, “a heart-warming, soul-satisfying, and salivating meditation on the spiritual dimension of foodways.”

As you might guess if you follow any of this sort of writing at all, there’s a lovely endorsement by the important leader in the field, Nate Stucky, who directs Princeton Seminary’s “Farminary.” Read this, please. Rev. Stucky says:

Like a carefully and lovingly prepared meal, Derrick Weston and Anna Woofendon have given a rich and generous gift in Just Kitchen. With honesty, humility, and great generosity of spirit, Derrick and Anna echo a truth I learned from the keepers of the kitchen in my own family–there’s more going on in the kitchen than we usually realize. Yes, it can be a complicated and difficult space, but it can also be a space of interaction, preparation, transformation, reflection, healing, community, mutuality, celebration, and hope. For anyone who has longed for a guide to a more meaningful relationship with the kitchen, Derrick and Anna graciously show the way–recipes included.

Just Kitchen was one of our most anticipated books of the fall. There are short, smart pieces scattered throughout it with rich sidebars, interviews, and inserts. From a questionnaire about what you bring to your kitchen to a recipe for Collard Greens to a “breath prayer” for doing dishes to a reflection about church cooking (and a good bit on compost) there is a lot of good stuff here, all framed by justice and hope. There are stories galore, reflections, meditations, poems and recipes. It is both serious and inviting, profound and friendly. Did I mention hope? And joy? Cheers!

An Invitation to Joy: The Divine Journey to Human Flourishing Daniel Denk (Eerdmans) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I won’t recite the story of this amazing book again — I wrote about it months ago — but I’ll note that it is about joy so I sort of have to list it here. Really: who doesn’t want a deeper sense of gladness, a study of joy that leads to authentic flourishing, not just cheap laughs or momentary happiness. This is the real deal, a book about finding joy even in very unpleasant times and hard seasons.

As Christopher Wright the missional, Biblical scholar from Langham Partnership (John Stott’s old ministry) puts it in the helpful forward, “If you have lost your joy, this book will help you find it again.” It is “refreshing, rebuking, reviving, rewarding, and richly biblical and practical.” The author has been through a lot and is a respected PCA pastor. He’s as solid as you go and the book has gotten good reviews.

There ya go. What more do you want? Even serious scholars like George Madden of Notre Dame and Joel Carpenter of Calvin University have blurbs — Marsden calls it “winsome and thoughtful” and Carpenter says “Listen to Denk. He knows life in its depths, he knows God, and he knows joy.”

Every Step Is Home: A Spiritual Geography from Appalachia to Alaska Lori Erickson (WJK) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

Ohh, this makes me smile and I’m glad to share it for those who want a good read. There’s several reasons that this is a lovely, interesting — even fascinating — book and I’ll be brief. First, the writer captivated me with a book several years ago where she travelled around the world exploring end of life practices and beliefs of various peoples. That was called Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper and I loved her fair and open-minded reports of these various ways of coping with death. She is a professional travel writer (and explores how this deepened her faith in Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God) and this new one picks up again on her penchant for travel and for observing spiritual stuff along the way. So there’s that — I don’t get out much but I like reading about far-away places and I appreciate her glimmers of meaning found in her “holy roving.”

But more, this one is exactly a study of what we might call liminal or spiritual or sacred space in the United States. She is an Episcopalian Christian but this isn’t church history locations or even particularly Christian insights about things, but open-minded study of several places that must have been deemed sacred by ancestors. Some of these reports are fairly restrained — you can tell she is pumped but tries not to be too nerdy about it all in front of her husband and kids who sometimes accompany her on these seeking road trips. But some are just wild.

Have you ever heard about the Mounds (including the Serpent Mound) in Ohio? Ancient Native peoples built thousands of huge mounds all over the mid-West and by the 1800s most had been ploughed under, dug up, or farmed over. The newly founded Smithsonian Institute got some of them in Ohio to be protected historic places and their first book is a study of these unusual (and unusually large) markings. Some have astronomical connections. You’ve got to read this if you’re curious about this kind of thing.

There are moving chapters about holy dirt in the Southwest, about the Aura Borealis seen in Alaska, and her trip to the Redwoods in Northern California is awe-producing. There is a chapter on stone, she studies fire, and, of course, water. These are each set in great places and, again, you may have heard of some of these locations but I bet some will be new to you. Unless your a junior cultural anthropologist I suspect her explorations of the transcendent meaning of many of these spots will be new, as well. Who knew? — hidden in plain sight, as they say. In any case, the wit and family stuff as they make these road trips, looking for trails of divinity and rumors of glory, will make for an interesting read.   

Sacred Strides: The Journey to Belovedness in Work and Rest Justin McRoberts (Thomas Nelson) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I have written about this before and it continues to make me smile. Man, I’m glad for this guy’s presence on the planet; he is a good friend, a real encourager, a spiritual guide and life coach. He’s an artist, a singer-songwriter, storyteller, writer, and one of the coolest dudes I know. He’s fun, funny, and yet is serious about faith and mentoring others into a life of healthy, caring, discipleship. It would make me really happy to introduce you to him, so buy this book, okay? Buy a few and give them away, to sinners and saints and anybody young at heart.

As I’ve explained, he’s been on the road with rock bands, he’s opened for big names, and he’s got stories of the glory and the flame.He’s done radical mission work, has written about creativity for makers and entrepreneurs, and, here, he is using his experiences and storytelling to help us understand a few deep things.

The book is about rest. It is about work. It is about getting them working together, a rhythm, a “sacred stride.” This is brilliant, but it may take some practice. He makes it fun. You may shed some tears and I bet your laugh. He’s got a light tough but he is drawing on the best thinkers and profound mystics. His notion of discovering and resting in our belovedness is precious. This book makes me happy, even though I don’t stride very well. Maybe you don’t either. No worries, Justin will help.

Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Reading This: A Christian Doctor’s Thoughts on Sex, Shame, and Other Troublesome Issues Lina Abujamra, MD (Forefront Books) $26.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80

For starters, the title is fun, isn’t it? It’s a religious book about s-e-x and while that isn’t as startling as it used to be, in this age of book bans and super-critical creeps using religion to tell everybody what they can and can’t even read about, the era needs some healthy candor and strong wit. Abujamra is an evangelical, a passionate follower of Jesus, and a woman who works with refugees and other marginalized folks. She has been a pediatric ER doc, and, like that guy on the insurance advertisement, she has “seen a thing or two.” She actually says she has seen it all and nothing surprises her. It’s a good place to start.

She notes that most people have some secrets — she does, too, she says up front — but that hidden part sooner or later comes out. So she decides to be transparent, talking about her own struggle with sexual temptation with openness and vulnerability. She admits her brokenness. She is clear that our “church and purity culture have failed our communities.” She “gets real about the excuses we make and the lies we tell ourselves, even when our behaviors point to a larger problem.”

Do you want a no-holds barred discussion on what and what the church needs to be doing to support Christians who struggle with sexual sin and with the community at large? I’ll tell you what: she shows that it has something to do with Jesus.

This is nearly a memoir, not a serious Biblical study or discourse on sexual ethics. It’s what she has learned.

As her publisher puts it, “If you’re going to have a difficult conversation, you might as well have it with a doctor.” Not that it’s that difficult. But she makes it real. And fun.

I’ve not studied all of this carefully, but people I know who admire her make me smile. She makes me smile. The book title — confusing as it may be — is trying to send a message against secrets and shame. That’s kind of subversive, actually  — the “don’t tell people” in the title comes quickly undone with the book which affirms candor and transparency. You should tell people you’re reading this! And while you’re at it, tell ‘em you got it here. Ha.

Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told Through Hip-Hop Lenny Duncan (Broadleaf Books) $27.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.39

This compact sized hardback makes me smile for a couple of reasons. Lenny Duncan is a gay, proud, Lutheran pastor from the inner city, originally from the streets of Philly. His call to the church to be just and inclusive, Dear Church, his memoir about his own homelessness, United States of Grace, and the little Dear Revolutionaries really touch a number of our friends and customers. These are not for everyone, admittedly — he’s blunt and colorful in his language, but his call to God’s grace and radical anti-racist justice is solid. He is currently a media producer (with a podcast called BlackBerryJams with PRX.) And this brand new release feels like some sort of major project, a life-giving side project that has become the big thing.

Psalms of My People is a study of the black experience in the US which, he insists, is vitally connected to the history of hip hop. It is a guide to the history of the genre, telling winsomely about the artists, the lyrics and their cultural context. He treats hip-hop as revelatory and (as it says on the back cover) “reveals its role as a conduit to tell the modern story of Black liberation in this country.”

It is a lot to ask of a genre of popular art that, like most genres, is laden with the good, the bad, and the ugly. But he brings “soft tenderness and sharp critique.” As Elle Dowd (a pastor who wrote Baptized in Tear Gas) puts it, it is “both delicious and, at times, bitter.” She insists it is “full of the contradictions we see reflected in all sacred texts and pregnant with possibilities for transformation.”

In a season when it seems there are lots of retrospective music projects, and not a little nostalgia, we need a book like this. It is demanding, fun as it seems. It features handsome black and white illustrations on every page along the borders. Much of the book is lyrical, poetic, a hip-hop style, for sure. I’m sure this isn’t enough for this topic — can you imagine only one book on Dylan or rock or Bach or country? But it is cool, it is hot, it is righteous, it is snappin’.




It is helpful if you tell us how you want us to ship your orders.And if you are doing a pre-order, tell us if you want us to hold other books until the pre-order comes, or send some now, and others later… we’re eager to serve you in a way that you prefer. Let us know your hopes.

The weight and destination of your package varies but you can use this as a quick, general guide:

There are generally two kinds of US Mail options and, of course, UPS.  If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be a little slower. For one typical book, usually, it’s $4.12; 2 lbs would be $4.87. This is the cheapest method available and seems not to be too delayed.
  • United States Postal Service has another, quicker option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.50, if it fits in a flat-rate envelope. Many children’s books and some Bibles are oversized so that might take the next size up which is $9.20. “Priority Mail” gets much more attention than does “Media Mail” and is often just a few days to anywhere in the US.
  • UPS Ground is reliable but varies by weight and distance and may take longer than USPS. Sometimes they are cheaper than Priority. We’re happy to figure out your options for you once we know what you want.

If you just want to say “cheapest” that is fine. If you are eager and don’t want the slowest method, do say so. It really helps us serve you well so let us know. Keep in mind the possibility of holiday supply chain issues and slower delivery… still, we’re excited to serve you. Blessed Advent.


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Sadly, as of December 2023 we are still closed for in-store browsing. COVID is not fully over and is on the rise. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the waste water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It is bad and now getting worse. It’s important to be aware of how risks we take might effect the public good — those at risk, while not dying from the virus, are experiencing long-term health consequences. (Just check the latest reports of the rise of heart attacks and diabetes among younger adults, caused by Covid.) It is complicated, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family who live here, our staff, and customers.) Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation, so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

We will keep you posted about our future plans… we are eager to reopen. Pray for us.

We are doing our curb-side and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help, so if you are in the area, do stop by. We love to see friends and customers.

We are happy to ship books anywhere. 

We are here 10:00 – 6:00 EST /  Monday – Saturday. Closed on Sunday.